For more than fifty years, I have been a Christian minister. I have dealt with my share of surprising requests and shocking confessions. I have never received an inquiry like the one that came this week.

“I have been thinking about this for some time,” he wrote me, “probably years, but the time is now. I need to get baptized again!”

I knew very little about this man, but I know more after reading the rest of his request: “I was baptized in my 20’s, but I never felt clean, because I was gay. I felt like I disappointed God because I was lying to the church on who I was. I feel like I never really accepted all God’s love for me….”

He concluded his appeal: “It has haunted me these past 30 years. … I want to be baptized as my authentic self.”

Like most minsters, I have dealt with the question of re-baptism.

It was a thing some years ago, among some Baptists. Traveling evangelists made quite the splash calling people to “get your baptism in order.” Hundreds flooded the aisles contending that their childhood baptism was meaningless, had happened before they understood anything, or was not authentically connected to their journey of discipleship. They went under the water again to make it right.

I resisted that trend. In fact, I generally resist any interest in doing baptism again. I don’t like it when travelers to Israel request baptism in the Jordan River just so they can memorialize their experience in the place where Jesus also was baptized.

I certainly push back against any and all Christian groups that demand rebaptism from those who want to affiliate from another Christian tradition.

There is a practice among some Baptists to reject any immersion of a believer done anywhere but within their own congregations—they call it “alien immersion.” They have other peculiar teachings, and they go by the name “Landmark Baptists.” Maybe you know some! Maybe you are one!

I turn to the Bible for guidance. “There is one Lord,” Paul wrote to all of us in the letter we now call Ephesians. “There is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.”

Baptism is intended to come in the early stages of our Christian experience, and we must expect the growth that follows that initial act. I was just days away from being ten years old when I went under and came up dripping wet. I’ve come a long way since then, but that does not make that public initiation false or fake, inadequate or unbiblical.

But this request—“I want to be baptized as my authentic self”—seems different. It has, don’t you think, a compelling appeal?

Yes, I suppose there are many scenarios in which people are not their “authentic self” when they are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I think especially of transgendered people. Their situation may be one step further down this line of personal authenticity. They refer to their prior identity as their “dead self” and their former name as their “dead name.”

Surely, such a trans-formed person is reasonable, even spiritual, to want to be baptized. The same may go for the gay person who was in the closet at the time of baptism and now is in the open as a practicing disciple of Jesus.

Of course, there are many ministers who deny this can even be a thing: namely, living both as a gay person and as a Christian person. Renounce homosexuality, such pastors will insist. Denounce transgenderism, many Christians will demand. A few years ago, I would have been among them.

But not now. I know too many gay Christians to make such claims. And now, I am mulling over the logical outcome of such a decision.

“I want to be baptized as my authentic self.”

In a very real sense, none of us is the person we were when we were baptized, especially those of us whose baptism was more than a half century ago. Even my “authentic self” is so different than it was in the winter of 1960.

Now, my resistance to baptizing a person a second time is being challenged in a compelling way. In what sense is the baptism of a closeted gay person a genuine initiation into Christ?

What do you think? I’ll take whatever help I can get, from the pulpit and the pew!


Copyright 2023 Dwight A. Moody

Published On: May 3rd, 2023 / Categories: Commentary /

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